Touching the World

Did Irene Mawer make an impact upon the world? If you check on-line for Twentieth Century female mimes then you would barely even know that Miss Mawer existed. This is a failing of modern technology, and perhaps, also of Irene Mawer herself. Irene spent fifty years making her mark, but always refused to push herself forward. Indeed, she has even written that she preferred to concentrate on ensuring that the work of her friend, Ruby Ginner, was recognised and remembered. Ruby is well-remembered by the history books, and it is the omission of information about Irene that I intend to rectify.

Irene Mawer was an extremely intelligent woman – this can be seen from her prowess even during her school years. She excelled in academic subjects, sport and also drama while at school. Life chances prevented her from attending university – though it had been her intention to study literature. The world of work called to the young Miss Mawer and led her to setting up the Ginner-Mawer School of Dance and Drama. I think Irene really loved passing on knowledge. She was a teacher all of her adult life, including giving lectures in different parts of Great Britain, even as far away as Scotland.

Pupils from the Ginner-Mawer School also spread out: I know that my own teacher taught in Yorkshire, as did Doris McBride. There was a flurry of dance schools in the south of England, particularly around Cheltenham and Cornwall which were two locations of the Ginner-Mawer School, and Diana Birmingham/Griffiths opened her school in Shrewsbury. Other graduates of the Ginner-Mawer School moved to different countries and I have heard of schools opening in South Africa; Canada; and New Zealand. Most of the graduates opened their own dance schools – these were not ‘dance and drama’ schools, thereby allowing the mime skills to fade away.

Unusually, in the USA in 2009, one of Irene Mawer’s poems was used in a school examination paper. The poem, The Tree in the Wind, was written by Miss Mawer as a nature rhythm and although I have made enquiries to find out how it came to be used in the school curriculum in the state of North Carolina, I have not had replies to my emails. Hopefully, once Covid is under control, I may be able to find out.

Although at the top of this article I wrote that Miss Mawer has not been befriended by modern technology, in that she does not feature in, for example, a search for a list of women mimes, things are changing. I am hugely gratified to have been in contact with people across the globe who are now including Irene Mawer in their writings, both about mime and also about the training of movement for actors. In addition, my promotion of Irene Mawer and her method of mime (and now, as I learn more about it, her dedication to education) are beginning to bring more people into the circle. The Facebook page has been crucial in this and through it I have made several virtual friendships. There is now also the website you are currently reading, which repeats the blog posts on the Facebook page.

Please take a moment to like/share/comment, etc, as all of these actions will help Irene Mawer to start to gain the recognition she so richly deserves but never sought for herself. Thank you.

Author: Janet Fizz Curtis

Janet Fizz Curtis is trained in the Irene Mawer Method of Mime and Movement and is now writing a book about the life of Irene Mawer.

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